We look at what makes the perfect driver’s car and choose which one comes closest in the real world
First thoughts for the ideal driver’s car? Many would instinctively put horsepower at the top, but actually that comes much further down the list. We thought we’d make a list of what the perfect car would have, and then see if anything matches up. And the first thing on the list is price.
There’s no point in putting a multi-million dollar car at the top, as so few could afford one and even fewer would actually drive it how it was intended. A LaFerrari is possibly the greatest driver’s car of all time, but since it costs a couple of million it’s kind of irrelevant to most people.
And size matters. That Ferrari LaFerrari is often frightening to drive on UK roads, as it’s so wide you go round a corner praying there’s nothing like a lorry or something about to come the other way. You start to wonder how much the wing mirrors cost and if you can buy them in bulk. We’re looking for compact dimensions.
And with that comes low weight. To engineers low weight is always the grail, not more horsepower – what’s the point in doubling horsepower if you double the weight? You’ve achieved nothing apart from spending tons more.
Then we want grip and balance, not too much understeer which is dull, or too much oversteer which is scary. And it’s got to be practical, you have to be able to use it otherwise it’s simply a theoretical exercise and not a practical one.
And comfy, which means not just comfortable seats but also a supple ride, otherwise your fabulous driving experience will be exhausting for you and any passengers within the first hour. Then we’re into horsepower, visibility, type of steering, transmission, engine front or back or middle, all that good stuff.
We arrived at these conclusions as to what would make the ideal car. It would have to:
- Be front engined and rear-wheel drive.
- Be no more than 1750mm wide.
- Weigh no more than 1300kg.
- Have a normally aspirated flat six, straight six or V8 engine.
- Have a manual gearbox.
- Have space to spare for two and a fortnight’s luggage, and four in an emergency.
- Have a power-to-weight ratio of 200bhp per tonne or better.
- Have hydraulically assisted steering.
- Have sufficient ride, refinement and equipment to perform credibly as an everyday car.
So where does that get us? What car is that describing? As you have probably already deduced from the photos, the answer is a Porsche Cayman GT4. Note this isn’t the latest Cayman as we’re not sure that four-cylinder engine would tick enough boxes, so we’d be looking at a used example. And, yes, they’re rising in value, although you could get one for about £10,000. Or, indeed, £80,000.
This is a car that is compact, has good visibility, perfect driving position, comfy ride, a practical cabin and a rip-snorting engine with lots of torque. So you can thrash it or you can tour in it, all in comfort.
Note it weighs 1400kg so it certainly fits the weight criterion. You won’t find a better shifting manual transmission, or a better sound from the flat six, or even a better steering wheel, so perfect for size, grip and weight. It’s the small things as well as the big things that really mark this car out as seriously special.
And the big things are the engine performance and the handling, both of which are utterly sublime, making you feel directly connected to the car in a way that any driver will appreciate in their soul.
For us, this is the car, the perfect driver’s car, but what if you just don’t like the Porsche label? Alternatives include the BMW M2, Mazda MX-5 RF, Toyota GT86 and, of course, the VW Golf GTI.
Or did you have another car in mind? Let us know what it is and why, if you think you can better any of these.